Ianthe snaps to awareness all at once. There is no soft, slow awakening for her. One moment there is nothing, and the next her eyes are open, and her body instinctively rises in a crouch as she reaches for weapons that aren't there.
She has no idea where she is. There is a melody that resonates in her bones that is comforting, but her mind is blank. Her eyes dart over her surroundings even as she presses herself back against the nearest tree. It is huge, she notices absently, but she shoves that thought away as she attempts to make sense of her surroundings.
Everything is bright. It's alive, green and growing and beautiful, but something is wrong. Ianthe had no idea what it is, and as she strains her mind to remember what it is she had forgotten, she finds her memories...faded.
They are present, but jumbled and muddled. She cannot remember much of anything, though her body seems to be responding to muscle memories and instincts she isn't quite sure how she got. She knows, if she focuses very hard, that she had been in a battle, but that's all. She's not sure with who, or how, or why. She doesn't know what she did in that battle- though her responses hint at fighting- and she is not happy to be here, wherever here is.
Her breathing is forcibly controlled into some semblance of calm, and her eyes scan the area again.
She can find no threats, but there is a group of people collapsed a bit further away from her place against the tree where she had braced herself. She narrows her eyes, her head throbbing with the beat of her heart.
She knows them.
The closest one to her is a gangly boy, with a length of thick, black hair and pale skin. She stares at his delicately pointed ears and her own hand absently reaches up to her own. There is no point that she feels and her hand falls.
She cannot place it in that moment, but she knows those people.
Red, black and brown hair, most of them with pale skin, but there were two with dark skin tones, short of statue with curls of hair on their feet. While they had pointed ears, three were distinctly taller, and all Ianthe can think is that they're all different, but...not?
"They're not," she thinks to herself, in absent confusion, "though what they're not different from is up for debate." Her frown deepens. She is not fond of this not knowing thing. Especially as she is aware she's missing events, and knowledge that she should have.
Her instincts prickle, and she feels like it's important whatever she forgot, but the more she tries to reach for the thoughts, the more they slip away. All the same, she finds herself slowly creeping forward towards the pile of people, a deep-seeded instinct demanding she make sure they are alright. She approaches the taller male with black hair and pointed ears first, her hands gentle as she runs them over the male's arms and legs looking for injuries.
She finds none, and pulls him gently to the side, laying him out to move to one of the shorter males. This one has dark hair as well, pulled back into intricate braids clipped in silver beads and clasps. Her hands rise absently to her own hair, as she had felt similar beads in her hair when they touched her ears or neck. She tugs at them and finds auburn hair like coils of copper fire in the sun bound in braids. Most are made of a pale jade stone, but a clasp near the front of her braids is done in obsidian while the clasp on the opposite braid was silver.
Knowledge tickles the back of her head, these clasps and what they are made of mean something, but she shoves that away. She can think about that later, right now she needs to make sure her people are okay.
She tugged on the shorter dark haired male with scruff on his cheeks, and startled a little at how much heavier he was then he looked. He was...dense even though he was smaller than she had expected. She shoved that away as well, to join her stash of unanswered questions, as she ensured this male was alright.
Her eyes close in relief as she finds nothing, and she drags him to sprawl out beside the other male.
One by one, she checks each of them. The fiery haired twins curled together like puppies, the curly haired short females with the matching curls on their feet, and another short but dense male with tawny hair and a short beard.
None of them are hurt, and it's like a great weight has lifted off her shoulders. As if a hand she had not noticed finally loosened its hold on her lungs. Her legs fold under her, and she slides to the floor, flopping her head back against the tree behind her, eyes closing in relief.
And then her eyes open and she observes the people (her people) closer. Her brow furrows after a few minutes of observation, and her eyes widen. She had not paid much attention to them, beyond features and if they were injured. Now that she is not worried about that, she notices something she had missed before.
These people are young.
Tiny, still growing, children.
That's not right, her mind screams, that's not how it should be.
And her mind slows, as she slowly looks down at her hands. Familiar hands, calloused and worn with work, but so very tiny. So much smaller than they should be. A vice closes over her lungs, and for an instant she holds her breath. Instinct has her forcing the panic attack back, has her dipping forward so her head is between her knees, and her breathing slowing and deepening. She cannot panic here. She needs to be alert. She needs to be aware.
She has no idea where she is, or what happened to her, why she had blank spots in her memories, and her people are unaware in front of her. She has to protect them.
As soon as the thought crosses her mind, everything slows down. It doesn't matter that she can't remember things she knows she should. It doesn't matter that they are changed, that she is changed. What matters is that she has people to protect and she needs to get herself under control.
It's like breathing, that knowledge. Instinctive and all consuming. Something she has always done to the best of her ability, she knows this like she knows grass is green. Her throat loosens, the tightness easing as something so familiar to her, something burned into her very bones, rises to the forefront. Something she can cling to.
She can do that, she can protect them, as she always has (she can't remember from what, but she knows she has for years).
Time passes. The sun journeys across the sky and the shadows grow long.
The others do not wake, and Ianthe has pulled them all towards the roots of a particularly large tree and settled them inside the hollow they formed. She feels better with something solid at her back, and between her vulnerable barafazrâf and anything that wanted to come up behind them. (What is that language, why does she know it, why does it ring as familiar?)
She's exhausted, and hungry, but that's nothing new. She's used to dealing with both of those feelings, and she ignores them for the moment. She is not comfortable with the idea of leaving her barafazrâf alone and undefended while she slept or went foraging. She resolves to wait until at least one of the other children-who-are-not are awake before she leaves to scout more thoroughly.
She'd trapped the area around the tree she and her own sheltered in, and so far it had worked to keep her tree and a bit of land around it secure.
('a bit' of land was relative- she'd needed enough space to lose anyone that happened upon them without leading anybody too close to her little burrow or her people).
Still, as the days had passed, her mind had cleared a bit. She was still missing large chunks of time, but some of her memories were clearing up.
She knew she'd been in a sort of civil war now, that she'd died. That she and those who had died near enough to her own time of death- or had died via something her mind called 'the veil'- had a choice to follow her. That the tiny group of children behind her (who shouldn't be children, not that small, her mind insisted) had been those to come after her in this new world.
On top of that, she had new knowledge that was clear in her mind. Much clearer than the rest of it at any rate. A new language that rumbled and shifted like the earth, customs that had not been hers, but were, meanings assigned to different braids and gems, to beads and clasps. An entirely new sign language, and the species of this world.
Elves, hobbits, men, dwarves, (dwarrow her mind insisted) orcs, and goblins…so many creatures.
This world was so different, and yet...not. She knew much, and had so much more to learn. The curious part of her, the one that knew knowledge was power, cunning was might, wisdom was life that loved a challenge...that part of her was thrilled. An entirely new world sat before her. A world who had no preconceived notions about her.
But at the same time, the part of her that had led wars- that knew loss more than most thrice her age, that had witnessed bloodshed and the rage of people- worried. She knew the blame of the masses, the anger and hate of a martyr's determination and the agony of a precious life cut short before her eyes. It worried about what these new peoples would be like, what would cause them to be a danger to her and her own, what parts of this society would trip her up, and how she could protect them all.
Her mind turned the problem over and over again, even as she kept herself alert to her surroundings, and the multiple alert systems she had set up around the makeshift camp without magic. She knew there were wizards here in this world, but she had not bothered to test anything with her magic.
She didn't want any of this world's magic users to track her with it. While it didn't feel as if there were a great many who were users, there was an enormous lingering taint of darkness that lingered over the lands. A familiar darkness though she was not certain why that was so.
It was desperation that saw her exploring the wood she had awakened in more thoroughly. She was hungry, yes, but she was used to that. What drove Ianthe to act was the hunger of her own once they had awakened and the soups she made via the nearby river and plant life were no longer able to fill them.
That was how she discovered Dale.
It had been a long while since Ianthe had needed the skills she would have to put to use for survival, but she had never forgotten. Never allowed herself to be rusty. She knew how to steal for survival. Knew how to hide among people, use her surroundings to disappear. The forest did not have enough for her to feed and care for all of them, not when she was stuck in this tiny child's body, when she could not use her skills to the best of her ability.
Dale would be an excellent source for her, and her size would only aide her in hiding if she did it right.
The city soon learned to be wary of her, to watch for her in the streets.
So it was, that Ianthe began to look for other ways to get what she needed from the city. She had no money, nothing to acquire her needs legally so she had to use her wits. She found herself in Dale's underworld, poking around carefully and finding those who could help her and her own.
Her skill as a leader showed through in this. She remembered enough to know she had been a leader. The voices in her head called her 'General' and so that was what she told those in Dale to call her.
Let the title she had been given be used to hide her gender and name. It was easier to be male for the race of men, and Ianthe had discovered the dwarrow who lived in the mountain just beside the city of Dale. She was now a dwarrowdam and she knew how rare that was. For all other races, a female dwarf would be a curiosity, but for the dwarrow...they would take her in, she knew.
But she refused to be seperated from her barafazrâf which was such a mixed group of races. Races that included elflings. Ianthe feared the reaction of Erebor's people should she approach with the children of a race that they so famously clashed with. She would not risk it. If that meant hiding her race alongside her gender and name so be it. She would see the world burn for her own, this was a small price to pay.
Still, she went looking for the means to help herself, and through that she found The Thief.
No one knew his name of course, and not even what race he was. Ianthe had only heard whispers, but when she tracked the sources down they all agreed on the same thing- The Thief was a being of honor for all his choices. He'd keep to his word, and he took care of those who answered to him.
The problem she was running into was that she had no idea where to begin looking for him. She wasn't sure who to contact, what race she should be searching, and she had to be wary of fakes. There weren't many of course, as all the fakes recieved rather violent responses when they were tracked down- and they always were-and most knew better.
She did manage to learn that sometimes, if someone made enough of an impression, The Thief would find them.
So she resolved to do that. She knew the Thief didn't get into contact personally of course, but there were multiple accounts of how he did so across the Underworld if one knew where to look.
Ianthe made it her business to look. Especially as it could help her help the others.